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How to cook for Parties With a Toddler / Baby at Home!

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One of the questions I get asked very frequently is ‘how I manage to cook with a very active child at home’. So I thought of writing this post. I am by no means a person who can give tips on this topic, but I am happy to share how I manage. If it helps anyone, I will be very happy.

I grew up watching my aayi cooking for large functions at home. She would make everything from scratch, with some help from dad and my granddad. We had very frequent power cuts, so she had to grind big quantities of coconut on manual grinder to make traditional Konkani dishes. My brother and I were very clingy kids, so I don’t know how she managed it. I have never cooked for such large gatherings. But I have started cooking for smaller gatherings these days. One of my worry was the food won’t be enough for everyone – I am okay if I have left overs that my family can eat next day, but I don’t like if my guests go hungry. I am getting better at judging the amount now.

I cook 3 meals almost everyday, but I like to eat out once a week. Our eating habits have changed after Ishaan was born – I have become more passionate about cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients, take for instance the pasta sauces, the pickles etc. I haven’t started making pastas from scratch yet, may be sometime soon!. After a recent India trip, I realized freezing food is very handy. When I have leftovers, I freeze them instead of having it the next day. This helps on those days when I come home late from Ishaan’s ‘play in the park’ for long hours or after his swimming class.

I have realized that, when a child is at home fulltime, they need full attention, most of the time. When Ishaan went to daycare, I had more time on hand, I didn’t feel so guilty about leaving him to play alone. Now he wants me all the time – to play with him, to be with him. So it becomes a little hard to spend lot of time in kitchen. But I try to have some friends home once in a while, Ishaan LOVES when we have company.

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Here are some things that  I follow when I have guests, all are simple ones, probably you all are already aware of most.
Involve child in whatever I am making. I always get a stinky eye from parents when I say this!. I started involving Ishaan in cooking from a very young age. I know involving him means anything that takes 5mins would now take 30mins!. But it is a fun activity for him and he is learning a skill. I let him add chocolate chips if I am making a choc-chip cake, let him measure out sugar and so forth. I mix the chapati dough and have him try and mix it by himself. Two things come out of it, one, he has fun and second, the chapatis come out extra soft with all that mixing and punching. I cut small pieces and give them to him to make small dough balls. If I make making something with boiled eggs, he peels the eggs. The best part of all this is, he gets very excited about eating what he has helped me make, a win-win situation. If he is not helping, he sits on the counter and looks at my work. I started this after he turned around 2 and I never leave his side when he is on the counter.

Take enough breaks. Instead of making everything at a stretch, I stay in kitchen for sometime, then I take a break and play with him for sometime. That way he is engaged in some play when I finish work.

Take shortcuts wherever possible. I take many shortcuts to get things done faster or get things done without me standing in kitchen. Some of my favorites on the list are:

  • I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to make cake batters, make chapati dough (when I am making chapatis in large quantities)
  • Use mortar and pestle to make a quick ginger-garlic paste if I am using it for one dish. If I am using it for more than one dish, I make it in mixer/blender
  • I use oven wherever I can. I have started making veggie patties for many get togethers, instead of shallow frying, I bake them. I serve them with simple sweet-sour chutney and sev.
  • Instead of making two chutneys that go in most of the chaats, I make one combining all the ingredients in one. So I make a simple chutney with dates, chillies, tamarind, coriander leaves, mint leaves, roasted cumin. No one misses two chutneys (unless they are way too specific about them!)

Plan ahead, it is not fun to do shopping with a child running around!. I am not good at planning ahead, there are days when I don’t know what I will be making till I step into the kitchen. I open the fridge, find out what I have and come up with a menu. This works perfectly for me, but when I have guests, this does not work very well. So I have started planning ahead. Instead of thinking the menu in myahead (which I used to do before), I write down atleast some of the main dishes I am going to make. Then I write down what I need to buy to make those. I still throw in some last minute dishes with what I have on hand, but atleast the main dishes get prepared without extra trips to grocery store!.

Try to pick easy dishes that don’t require too much time to cook. I try to avoid making things like chapatis that take a long time. I make them if I have 4-5 people, more than that, I avoid making them. I make idlis because they are very easy.

Multitask. Like when potatoes or daal is cooking on the stove, start chopping. I do these in right order so that I am not standing near the stove waiting when something is getting done.

Cook as much as possible when child is sleeping. Ishaan used to sleep by 8 when he was younger. So after he slept, I would cook some dishes. I do not like staying up late cooking, so I am out of kitchen by 9-9:30. I wake up atleast one hour before he wakes up. I get so much done. I use this time very effectively.

Make the preparations ahead. Although I chop the veggies when I cook every day, I like to chop veggies ahead when I have company. (I have tried chopping veggies and saving them on weekends for weekday dinners, but it never works for me, because I do not want to spend whole weekend standing in kitchen).

Use dishwasher. I can load a dishwasher with a sink full of utensils in less than 5 mins, but if I am washing them by hand, it takes min 20mins. So even if I have to start the dishwasher multiple times a day, I like to use it. For me, it saves time. Only thing I have to be careful is to remove all the food particles from utensils. I have one nonstick tava that I use for dosas and 2 cast iron pans – one grill pan and another pan that I use for everything else, that needs hand washing. Everything else goes in dishwasher. The best part is, the little one loves to unload all the dishes after it is done!.

The biggest lesson I have learnt is – No matter how much you like to entertain people, it is good to take it cool and relax when you have a child below 2 years of age. After that age, it gets a bit easier. If you still want to have friends over at home, go for potluck. Personally, I would like to prepare everything on my own, but potluck makes it easier on you. You can make a few dishes and others can get a few, that way you don’t have to stand in kitchen for a long time.

Two menus from recent get-togethers I had at home –
1) Had 4 adults and 1 child for dinner plus 3 of us
Starter –
Veggie patties with sweet-sour-spicy chutney and Sev

Veggie dishes –
Peas Kurma
Capsicum-potato dish

Non Veg dishes –
Chicken gravy
Kokum shrimp

Other –
Jeera rice
Chapati
Vermicelli idli
Peanut chutney powder
Sambar

How I prepared these  – On the previous day
– The previous day morning, marinated the chicken. Chicken gravies always taste better the   next day. So I prepared the gravy the previous day evening.
– Prepared peas kurma
– Roasted vermicelli and rava(sooji) well in advance while I was making dinner few days before. Soaked them in yogurt the previous day and added all other ingredients (except soda).
– Chopped capsicum and all other veggies needed for sambar
– Prepared sweet-sour-spicy chutney

On the day of get-together
– In a pressure cooker, kept the potatoes and veggies needed for pattis in one cooker insert and dal in the other.
– While they are cooking in pressure cooker, got everything else ready for sambar. I like to cook the vegetables on stove top with tamarind, salt and asafoetida (I used to cook them in pressure cooker before, but now I like stove top better).
– Chopped onion first, while they were cooking, chopped potatoes. Added potatoes and capsicum to onions and prepared the potato-capsicum dish.
– Prepared chapati dough.
– Once cooker is cooled, prepared the sambar, while it was cooking, prepared the patties mix, shaped into pattis and kept them aside.
– Started off the jeera rice on stove top and then moved it to rice cooker. I use a steel vessel in my rice cooker – i.e, I use it just like a pressure cooker. This helps in easy cleaning up, the steel vessel goes into dish washer after rice is done.
– While idlis were steaming, prepared chapatis.
– Just abut 20mins before my guests arrived, kept the patties in oven for baking. So they came our hot and crispy when they arrived.

2) 4 families were visiting us. 8 adults + 8 kids and 3 of us
Starters
Hummus(homemade) with multigrain crackers(from costco)
Grilled pineapple – corn salad
Veggie pattis with sweet-sour-spicy chutney and sev
Chips

Main course
Pav bhaji
Vermicelli idli – sambar – peanut chutney powder
Paneer biryani
White rice

How I prepared these  – On the previous day
– Cooked potatoes and other veggies needed for pav bhaji and patties
– Shaped the patties and refrigerated them. Since I had to make lot of patties, I didn’t want to keep that work for day of get together.
– Prepared hummus (will post recipe soon)
– Prepared sweet-sour-spicy chutney
– Just like the previous party, I roasted the vermicelli and sooji well in advance. Then mixed all other ingredients on previous day.
– Cut the buns for pav bhaji

On the day of get-together
– Prepared pav bhaji. I used tomato paste here instead of using fresh tomatoes to save time.
– While pav bhaji was cooking, kept the dal in pressure cooker. (I could have done this the previous day, but my cooker can fit only two inserts and I had to cook a lot of veggies, so there was no space).
– Prepared paneer biryani on stove top and white rice in rice cooker.
– Prepared sambar, while it was cooking, grilled pineapple.
– Cooked corn in microwave while grilling the pineapple. Prepared the salad and refrigerated.
– Steamed idlis and in the oven kept the patties for baking.

PS: I don’t have enough serving bowls/plates/cutlery to serve food to so many people. So I use plastic/aluminum foil use and throw trays/spoons/forks and paper plates. I absolutely hate the wastage, so I am hoping to find a better solution in future.

How to cook for Parties With a Toddler / Baby at Home! Read More »

5 Years And Counting ….

Today this blog turns 5. Thanks to all of you who supported this venture.

5 Years of Aayi's Recipes
We had started this place, 5 years ago as a place to save our home-made food recipes and also some new trials by us. In the beginning, I had no clue about blogs, let alone food blogs. I only discovered them about 4 months after I had gotten started. I was really happy to find so many like minded people. The day I received the first comment on the blog, I was ecstatic. I cannot believe this has lasted so long and the amount of love and admiration I have received from you all.
So to sum it up, Aayi’s Recipes is a place with the following purposes
1. Preserve and document food recipes that my family enjoy and grew up with
2. Log the experience and preparation of new learnings spanning across a variety of cuisines
3. Connect with like minded food lover readers, friends and bloggers

I think it is time, I answered some of frequently asked questions.

Why don’t you post your family pictures?
At this point, I like to keep this place, focused on food. Occasionally you might find some personal posts, as you always have. I may think otherwise in future, but at this point, I like to keep it that way. I hope you all respect my decision.

Why should I leave comments?
Comments are the only way I get to know who is reading and what they are liking here. Recently some people who had never commented here before said they read the blog for some particular type of recipes and I have posted some other type of recipes. Well, if you have never commented here, how would I know that? It may not be possible for me to always post what each and everyone wants, because each day I get so many different requests. But atleast I would know what you want to read here. I encourage you to write atleast a single line here when you try out a recipe. Tell me what you liked about it or what you did not like. If you have genuinely taken advantage of this blog, please let me know. Please be polite while commenting. It takes a lot of hard work – time, energy and money, to maintain this blog, so let us make it a homely and nice place. Please do not spoil it for everyone, it is my sincere request.

I asked for a recipe many times and it did not get posted yet.
As I said before, I post what I cook here. Many a times, when I get a request, I try to find the recipe and prepare it. But it is not always possible. Sometimes I don’t know the recipe, sometimes I cannot prepare it here for various reasons. I don’t post anything unless I try it myself.

Post some videos
I know it would be incredibly helpful for some people. But videos take a lot more time and equipment, which I do not have at this point.

I like xyz feature from another site/blog, please provide it here.
I would love to make this site better, but as I said earlier, because of time constraints, I am unable to work on many things that I would like to. But I will definitely try.

Why do you post Konkani recipes or why do you post non-Konkani recipes?
I get this all the time. My non-Konkani readers don’t want to read the Konkani names and the recipes with coconut(most of the Konkani recipes have coconut). Please ignore the recipes with coconut and read the others.
My Konkani readers want to read ONLY Konkani recipes. Well, that is not why I started this blog. I want to share all the recipes that I try. If you don’t like non-Konkani recipes, then ignore them and read the Konkani recipes. I have posted so many of them and I try my best to post more in this category.

I want to post some recipes on this blog. How can I?
At this point, there is no option to post reader’s recipes. In future I may provide this. In the past, I asked some people to help me out with recipes. I don’t say it always worked well. So I decided to keep it to my family’s and my recipes only.

Once again, Thank you so much for all your encouragement. I hope you continue to like this place.

5 Years And Counting …. Read More »

Nutmeg (Jaiphal)

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We grow many things in our backyard – decorative plants, flower plants, vegetables, medicinal plants etc. This year when Shilpa visited us, she took pictures of as many different plants as possible. She asked me to write a little about each one. I thought of starting the series with nutmeg. We have a big nutmeg tree in our front yard.

Nutmeg is called Jaiphal in Konkani and jayikai in Kannada. It belongs to Myristica genus. It is a commercial plant. The fruits have nutritional as well as medicinal value. Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka mainly grow this crop. Greneda islands in America also grow Nutmeg. Read more about nutmeg at wiki.

Nutmeg has male and female trees. It was told in earlier days that one should grow both male and female trees to get the fruits. In our courtyard, there is only one tree – possibly female – which gives good yield. The tree needs a lot of water during summer(March to May). Few years back, we used to have water problem during summer because of which, we hardly used to get any fruits. We had considered removing this tree. But these days the condition has improved, so we get good crop.

Nutmeg looks like an arecanut/beatlenut fruit. The tree looks like the tree of kokum. It bears hundreds of fruits at a time.

When the fruit is tender, the mace(japatri) has white colour. After full ripening – usually in June or July, the fruit breaks open and the nutmeg inside covered with reddish mace(japatri) in the manner of net all around, appears. We pick them at this stage.

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We separate mace from nutmeg and sundry them separately.  The outer light colored shell is discarded (many people eat these, but we never ate them or used them in food). Thus we get two types of condiments in a single tree. The colour of mace remains red after sundrying. It looses its colour if it is over dried. The proper colour vanishes after storing for a long time. It is a cumbersome procedure to dry these nutmeg and mace as they ripen in rainy season and if they are not dried properly, they get spoiled. When the nutmeg is dried completely, we can hear a rattling sound when the fruit is shaken. While using in food, the outer black colored shell is broken to get the actual spice.


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Nutmeg and mace are valuable because of their oily contents which are rich in chemicals like myristic acid compounds. Mace contains more chemicals than nutmeg and hence it is costlier. Indonesian nutmegs contain about 9% chemicals while the rest contain 2 -3% chemicals.

Nutmeg and mace are used in many no vegetarian preparations, bakery products, chewing gums, sweet dishes and soups. It has got some medicinal value. Nutmeg is applied externally to remove pain and swelling.

Though nutmeg is an expensive spice to buy, we feel it is not a profitable tree for us. When it is sold, we get quite a low rate since shop keepers usually buy it in kilos and it is a very light spice. We usually give it away to relatives and friends. Only if we manage to save some and dry them well, we sell them.

Apart from being a very useful tree, we all have emotional attachment to this tree. When my children were kids, they loved to play under this tree. They loved to pick nutmeg and also loved to play with the shells. Everyone who comes to our home, asks about this tree because it is quite unusual for many. In June, July when it bears fruits, we get to see very beautiful (and unusual to our area) birds on this tree. I think they come there to eat the fruit. They take many fruits and sometimes we find the fruits even in our neighbors backyards.

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Jackfruit

Ever since I came back from India, I am trying my best to get adjusted back here. My feelings are also something similar to Sia’s. I am missing home terribly and have become very very lazy. So thats the reason I haven’t replied to any queries here or the mails. I am sorry about that.

While in India, I took pictures of seasonal fruits and flowers. So apart from traditional recipes, I am going to post them too. I am going to post them once in a week so that they make me feel good.

Coming to the fruit of the day. It is going to be jackfruit. There are two main varieties of jackfruit that are very popular at our place. Both of them look exactly same. Unless they are cut open, you cannot make out the difference (atleast a person like me can’t make out).

One of them is the kind where you cannot cut them open with knife. Check the picture below. We call it “tiLvo panas”. One should be very careful while eating these as they are very slippery and cause choking if not careful. My dad and I simply love this. Even the 90% of jackfruit lovers can’t stand this.

Second one we call as “kappo panas”. These are cut open with a knife. It looks like this picture. Here the pods are firmer and you don’t have the problem of choking.

Both kind of jackfruits have a kind of glue which oozes out when they are cut. So before handling them, a little oil (preferably coconut oil) is applied to hands and the knife. Cut this fruit on a paper/plastic to avoid mess.

Jackfruit trees bear many fruits during season. Like coconut, every part of the tree is very useful. Raw jackfruit is used in many dishes. When it gets ripe, the fleshy sweet pods are eaten. The seeds are saved and sun dried. These seeds are used to make many dishes. The leaves are used to make hittu/khotte.
The dried tree trunks are used to build houses.

More information about jackfruit from Jai and Bee.

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Kokum

Garcinia Indica or Kokum(called ‘bhirnda‘ or ‘bhinda‘ in Konkani, ‘murugala hannu‘ in Kannada) can be called as one of the most used ingredient in Konkani cooking. Almost every household at our native and Goa has a Kokum tree. I was very lucky to go to India during kokum season this year. So I took the opportunity to take pictures of this beautiful fruit. The seeds of the fruit have a white colored fleshy coating on it. When the fruit becomes very ripe, its color changes to a bit transparent. The inside of the kokum fruit looks like following.

An average kokum tree bears hundreds of fruits during summer. When they are tender, they are green in color. As they ripen, they get the beautiful purple color. The fruits are plucked when they are ripe. The outer purple skin and the inner seeds are sun-dried separately. The skin, bhirnda sol, is used in cooking as a souring agent and the seeds are used to make bhirndel tel (kokum oil/butter).

I have got very fond memories of playing under this tree while growing up. My brother, I and few of our friends would go to our neighbor’s rice mill, which had a big backyard full of mango, cashew and kokum trees. We all would climb the tree or throw stones at the tree to pluck the ripe fruits. We would eat most of it there itself and carry few to home. Another memory which is linked with kokum is of spending summer holidays at my grandfather’s home in Sirsi. A person, whom everyone fondly called as ‘Adavi raja‘ (forest king) would come to sell these fruits. My grand parents would buy the fruit from him for us.

Our favorite way of enjoying the ripe fruit was to eat it with salt. Carefully take out the tiny cap of the fruit, which would leave a hole on the surface. Then with the help of a toothpick, push some salt crystals in the hole. Insert the toothpick in the hole and rotate it few times to mix the salt with the seeds of the fruit. Now suck the juices through the hole. Ahhh..its heaven. Only those who have actually tasted this can understand the sheer pleasure it gives. Once all the juices are done, break the skin into two and pop the seeds one by one in the mouth :). Discard the seeds. This was our favorite fruit to eat(only after mango) during summer vacations.

The most popular dish prepared with fresh kokum at our place is kokum kadi. A sweet, spicy and sour drink with a ingale(charcoal) or mustard seasoning. As kokum has cooling effects on the body, this is the perfect drink for hot summers.

Bottled/canned kokum syrup is available in many shops in Goa which acts as replacement for the fresh fruit to make the kadi. Another version that is very popular is sol kadi, prepared with fresh coconut milk.

The skin of the fruit – which is normally sold as ‘kokum’ is sun dried in large quantities to be used when the fresh kokum is not available.

Some salt crystals are added to the dried kokum, which acts as a preservative. As days pass, the dark purple skin turns black. When soaked in water for some time, the skin leaves beautiful purple color. This has many medicinal properties. The skin is soaked in water for sometime and the purple colored water is given to the patients suffering from ‘pitta‘.

Sometimes the fruit is mixed with sugar and sun dried. The juice that comes out of it is preserved to make kokum juice.

The seeds are sun dried to make kokum butter (bhirndel tel). The outer black shells of the seeds are peeled and the inner white colored seeds are chopped and ground into fine paste. Then they are cooked and dried to get the butter. The butter retains its solid shape at room temperature. When needed, it is held near a flame to melt it. This melted oil is applied to cracked heels and dried skin, which acts as a very effective moisturizer. Before we were introduced to different moisturizer brands, we used this as a moisturizer. Even now, we use it frequently for cracked heels.

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How to Boil Eggs

Many of you who eat eggs might think I have gone crazy to write this post. But when we take a moment and go back to those initial days of our cooking with an unknown ingredient, we will know how difficult it is for anyone to try a new ingredient. When 4-5 of my friends asked me the same question, I thought of posting this. I have been eating boiled eggs from my childhood. But when someone asked me how to boil eggs, I hesitated to answer. Well, I know how to do it and there were no failures so far, but I am not sure if what I always do is right method or wrong. So I spent some time to Google the correct answer. I learnt many different things which I didn’t know about boiling eggs. I would boil them forever without watching the time and switch off after some arbitrary time. I have seen one of my friend boiling eggs for a lot more time.

When I googled, I read somewhere that, the eggs should be boiled till the water comes to a rapid boil and then switch off the heat and close the lid. Leave the eggs like that for some duration of time and then pour ice on it. I tried it and it didn’t work out. May be the time they specified was wrong or I did something wrong, the eggs didn’t get hard in the center and since we both don’t like uncooked egg, we had to throw them all. So the safe bet would be the following method which has never failed.

Steps to boil eggs
1) Take water in a pan and slide the eggs in it carefully. Do not stack them one over the other. The water level should be 1-2″ above eggs.
2) Cook for about 15mins on medium high.
3) Discard the hot water immediately and pour ice over it. (I didn’t know this step. According to many different sites, ice helps easy peeling of eggs).
4) When the eggs are completely cooled (after about 5-6mins in ice), take them out and peel them.

I have seen some people getting really tensed while handling eggs. For ex, they take forever to peel them or even while making omelets, they think for 10mins before breaking them. With boiled eggs, do not think so much, they are not going to make a mess :).

Few things to remember:
– When you keep the eggs in a bowl of water and if the egg floats on it, that means the eggs have gone bad and have to be discarded. (To verify this I googled and found a detailed article about this).
– Fresh eggs are always hard to peel. People who don’t know about this, usually feel eggs are spoiled if the skin does not come out easily. So do not worry if they are hard to peel after cooling.

Here are few very good articles related to eggs
How to hard cook an egg
Nutritional values of egg
Eggs are back!
How to boil eggs

Please share with us your method of boiling eggs in the comments of this post. What I have written above is my method. Those who are doing it for the first time, please read all the comments and then follow what is suitable for you.

How to Boil Eggs Read More »

How to make Ghee

Ghee(Hindi), tuppa(Kannada),tup(Konkani)-clarified butter must be one of the most important ingredients in any Indian sweets. It gives a unique flavor and aroma to any sweet dish and takes the dish to a new level. When in India, my supply of ghee always came from my Aayi. I never liked the store bought ghee. I started making it in Bangalore when I used to buy Nandini whole cream milk. This milk gets a thick cream when heated. So I used to save it and make ghee out of it. When I came to US, I was totally lost since the milk we get here does not get the cream when heated. The ghee that we get in Indian stores is very expensive. So I started using shortening as a replacement as told by one of our friend. Shortening does give a better result than ghee for nankatayi, chiroti and many other dishes, but some of my readers said that it is not very good for health. So finally I decided to make ghee at home using unsalted butter.

I usually buy the 4 pack combo of unsalted butter in Costco and make ghee of 2 or 3 packs at a time and store. I somehow feel it is better than the store bought ghee and works out much cheaper. So this is what I have been doing for last many months. I was thinking of this post for a long time now, because of the increasing number of cooking newbies who read Aayi’s Recipes. I took as many pictures as possible, I am happy that my camera still is working after all these pictures. There was a thick vapor that sat on the camera lens when I tried to take picture from too close :(.

Apart from using in many sweet dishes, ghee is usually added to lamps (oil lamps) during festivals. It is supposed to be very auspicious. I still remember aayi giving ghee mixed in sugar after it was offered to god during one of the festivals.

– Heat 7-8 sticks of butter in a clean heavy bottomed pan. When all the butter is melted, keep the heat on low. Let it boil.

– Just blow lightly some air, if the liquid has become transparent and you can see the bottom of the pan clearly, the ghee is done. Switch off the heat. (Do not keep the heat on at this stage, otherwise the ghee gets burnt). Some people like to add a little fenugreek(methi)

– Now add 1/8 th tea spn of salt. It helps the floating particles to settle at the bottom.

– When the ghee has cooled a bit, pour in glass jars taking care not to pour any of the solid particles.

– If everything has gone well, it solidifies when completely cooled.

– There is a considerable amount of ghee which remains in the vessel after you pour it in jars. With a spoon, remove all the solid particles. Now use the vessel to make daali thoy or any other daal and the final daal comes out very tasty and fragrant.

At my native some people add a small turmeric leaf to the milk which is used for making ghee. Personally I don’t like any extra flavor to it, so I don’t like to add anything.

How to make Ghee Read More »

What do you make with papaya?

Aayi’s Recipes is becoming a big learning experience for me. I learn a lot from the comments by my readers. Also, when some recipe request is put here, I try my best to find the recipe, in that way I learn a lot of new recipes. I am very very greatful to you for all the support.

I thought it would be better if I make it more interactive. So every now and then I am going to ask you to comment with suggestions and your ideas so that we both learn and widen our culinary skills. Here is my first question or rather doubt…

I got a beautiful papaya from my last weekend shopping spree. It looked yellow from outside and I hoped that it might be ripe and juicy like the ones we get in India. When I tasted it, it was somewhere in between ripe and unripe. It was very hard and nothing like soft ones that we get in India and had kind of bland taste. There is absolutely no question of eating it as it is. I can’t use it in curries because it is not completely unripe. I know few recipes like halwa, burfi, milkshake, jam, holige with it. But I want to know if any of you know any other recipes. If you know, please comment here.

Thanks in advance.

What do you make with papaya? Read More »

How to make Biryani / Biriyani

2-3 years back I did not know the difference between biryani and pulav. I thought biryani has a different masala called “biryani masala”, but the method for both are same. We were in San Diego for a small business trip and one of my colleagues always prepared biryani on the similar lines as pulav. It definitely tasted great. But then, our manager (who is a Gujrathi but settled here in US), always said ‘what you people make cannot be called biryani’. I never got any chance to see how he makes biryani. But when I returned to India, I went to Belgaum and made sure to learn the biryani from my Pachi’s cook. Her biryani is just amazing.

Here I’ve noted down tips and tricks on “How to make Biryani / Biriyani”, detailed description and step by step pictures/photos with instructions.

While cooking biryani, the rice is cooked separately and alternative layers of vegetables/meat and rice is arranged and cooked on a very low flame for a long time. The best biryanis have each grain separate. They tend to be more dry compared to pulavs. Read here for more information about biryani.
Biryanis can be broadly classified in two
– Kutchi(raw) biryani – where the meat/vegetables are layered between semi cooked rice. For ex: Belgaum style biryani.
– Pakki(cooked) biryani – where cooked meat/vegetables are layered between semi cooked rice. For ex: Biryani with ‘biryani mix’

As I said earlier, biryanis have 2 or more than two layers of meat/vegetables and rice. But I have noticed that, the biryani cooked in Belgaum has only one layer of raw meat/vegetable at the bottom. Then there are layers of rice topped with biryani masala, fried onion. This may be what they followed from generations, but I absolutely love this. It is possible that to cook the meat fast and evenly they put only one layer so that the rice gives the desired weight to cook it faster(thats just a guess).

Here I give some general steps of making biryanis. I will not give any recipe, because these steps are useful with any biryani recipe.

– Cook basmathi rice with water, salt and 2 drops of oil till rice is 3/4th done. A few whole spices are usually added while cooking the rice. Note that rice should NOT be completely cooked. Drain water from the rice and if required, run it through cold water to separate the grains.

– Prepare the masala, for the ‘kutchi biryani’, fry all spices and meat/vegatetable in oil till a nice aroma comes out. Do not cook the meat/vegetables completely. For ‘pakki biryani’, fry the spices and meat/vegetable in oil and then cook it till the meat is completely done.

– Heat oil and fry onion slices till they turn brownish. Take out the onion from the oil on a paper towel.

– Soak saffron or the biryani color in warm water.

– Divide the meat/vegetable mixture in 2 or more portions. Divide the rice in same number of portions.

– Take a thick bottomed pan and heat ghee/oil. Add one portion of the meat/vegetable mixture. Cover with a layer of rice. On top of rice spread a layer of fried onion and soaked color/saffron (Some people add the onion and color layer only on the top). Arrange all the meat/vegetable and rice layers. Spread fried onion and color on top. If desired, spread a table spoon of well beaten yougurt/curd on top.

– Add some(around 1tbl spn) ghee/oil on top, add 1 cup of water(for 1 cup rice). Cover well and cook on a very low flame. After some time, when the grains have almost cooked (the grains would have become bigger). Heat a tava and keep the biryani vessel on the tava. Cook on a low flame again till the meat/vegetable and rice is completely done (if required, add only a little water, too much water makes the biryani mushy).

– Serve hot with raita or mint chutney.

PS : Do not try making biryani in a hurry. It comes out great when it is cooked on a low flame for a long time.
Do not use cooker for making biryanis.
In the above pictures, I have spread some biryani masala along with fried onions and have not used the color. I used the extra masala for the extra flavor.
The two recipes where you can follow this method are this and this.

How to make Biryani / Biriyani Read More »

Chapathi and Phulkas

Many people had asked me to post ‘how to make soft chapathis and phulkas’. Finally I am here with this post. Those who are expert in chapathi/phulka making, skip this post.

My experience with chapathi/phulka was very bad. When I started cooking, I could never make soft chapathis/phulkas. They used to come out very hard. I still remember one incident that happened in my previous office. There was a bachelor guy, who was very humerous and never missed any chance of pulling my leg. He used to sit beside my desk. One weekend we were working and he said he was very hungry and asked me for my lunch box. Though I warned him about my chapathi, he insisted on eating it. When he tasted it, he said, ‘Shilpa, me isse acha roti bana leta hoon (I can make better chapathis)’. He went on commenting how bad were my chapathis. That was the biggest insult I have ever got. Then he went on telling people about my chapathis. After that I tried and tried and now I can make the perfect soft chapathis.

So here it goes….

Take 2 tbl spoon of water and add 1/2 tea spn salt, add 1 tea spn of oil to make the chapathis soft. Then add wheat flour (1 cup). Mix and gradually add water/flour to make the dough. (Some people make the dough with warm milk to make the chapathi/phulkas soft). Now apply 1-2 tea spns of oil to the dough. Keep it aside for around 30 mins to 1hr.

(Chapathis/phulkas can also be made without milk and oil. But I usually add oil, have not tried milk any time. My mom makes very soft chapathis without oil and milk. She just keeps the dough for around 1hr before making chapathis/phulkas).

Most important thing to make them soft is
– Dough should not be very hard
– Leaving the dough for 1hr before making the chapathis/phulkas
– Frying of the chapathis/phulkas make a lot of difference. So I have taken the pictures of each step.
– Do not leave chapathis for longer time on the tava, so use hot tava for frying.
– Once fried, stack the chapathis/phulkas one above the other and immediately close the lid. This keeps them hot and soft. The chapathis/phulkas which are down in the stack are more softer. So reverse the stack after some time, so that the topmost becomes the bottommost. This way all the chapathis remain soft.

Chapathi:
Usually for chapathi, the dough is made into a small puri, ghee is added in the between and folded into triangular shape and then again rolled to make chapathi. This procedure makes the chapathis more soft. Usually chapathis are more thicker than phulkas(it is not a hard and fast rule).

Take extra care while frying them. Heat the tava to very hot. Then keep the chapathi. Turn it when you can see it fried from down.

Fry on second side then turn and fry.

Then turn again ie, each side should be fried twice to make sure it is fried properly. (At the max turn it thrice, if it is turned again and again, chapathis become hard). Then apply ghee. (Unlike phulka, chapathis are fried completely on tava, but phulkas are fried on tava and then on direct flame).

Phulkas:
Roll the dough as thin as possible (no folding).

Keep the tava on hot tava and reduce the flame. When you can see just white patches, turn it (chapathi should be fried as more as possible during each turn, but for phulkas, the side should be fried only a little on tava, see the below pictures).


Turn and then fry on the second side.

This side should be fried a bit more than on the first side, it should be almost fried from this side).

Now on a high flame, keep the phulka on direct flame (first side down).

Phulka
Phulka

Within one minute the phulka puffs. Slowly remove the phulka from the flame.

PS: I normally use 1 cup water to  1 and 3/4 cup  to 2 cups flour. This is approximation only. If you feel your dough is too soft and you can’t roll it, add little more flour. I use Pillsbury chukky fresh atta which gives very soft chapathis.

If none of the above things work, try making them like jolad rotti here by cooking the dough. This method is guaranteed to work.

Chapathi and Phulkas Read More »

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